My brother and I were interested in a large house and lot on Hollywood Boulevard. The property was 100 by 300 feet and was for sale for $60,000. I told Jean to buy it after he had looked at the house interior. He said it was probably an old shack and we'd raze it, but once he saw it he told me the house looked very good. There was a grand, mahogany-paneled poolroom, and each of the other rooms was very large with high ceilings and beautiful fixtures made of solid silver. I told him not to tear it down. In the end, we only had to paint the exterior.
We all lived in the 15-room house: myself, my brother (neither of us was married yet), and my parents. We also bought the residence next door, with a lot 300 by 100 feet deep. Proceeds from "Anytime" bought us two more houses around the same size that bordered our property, and we tore the three structures down to make an enormous garden. This property was slightly inclined and in the evenings you could see all the lights of Los Angeles. It was a magnificent home that we kept from 1947 until 1960, when my father died. Afterwards, my mother did not want to live alone in such a big place.
In 1952 I went back to Europe for the first time after the war. I told my brother that I would go for three months and that I wanted to buy a painting. My brother was hesitant and I had to convince him. I came back with a Rouault painting of a clown and with a Kisling still life. I paid $2000 for the former and about $1100 for the latter. My brother was crazy about the Rouault so I kept it. I sold the Kisling for $2100 and Jean said that was an excellent deal, perhaps this was something from which we might make some money and meet some new people. Before I left Europe, I met Anne Marie Cartiaux and we married about two years later; and after 50 years we are still married-quite happily, I must say.
In 1972, my family lived in New York City. At that time, it was a pretty dangerous place. On one occasion, my ten-year-old son Dolfi, who had never been out alone, begged me to let him go crosstown to Woolworth's. I gave him money to take the bus to Broadway. We lived at the Beresford on Central Park West, a few blocks away. When he came back he was shaking: he had been held up and mugged in the Woolworth store. A few weeks later, my other son, Ronny, went to walk our Labrador in the evening rain. A drunk knocked him unconscious. We found him lying on the sidewalk. It disturbed me so much I decided to leave the U.S. We moved to France and got a full floor in an apartment building on Avenue Foch. My two sons attended the American School in Paris, while my daughter was at college in the U.S. I worked in France but would spend three or four months back in New York.
In fact, after I had moved my family to Paris, I returned to New York by myself in February and stayed at the Mayfair Hotel. I was supposed to go to a party and at 5 o'clock I lay down to take a nap. When I woke up I had a chest pain that felt like the ceiling was falling on me and I knew I was having a heart attack. I called the hotel manager and asked him to get me an ambulance. There weren't any available, so at my request he called the police. I had a second heart attack in the police car: it was very cold and they only had one blanket for me. At Lenox Hill Hospital a young doctor saved my life by sticking a needle of adrenaline into my heart. I had to stay at Lenox Hill for six weeks because this double infarction was nearly fatal.
My brother came to the hospital as soon as he found out what had happened. The doctors did not give me much chance of survival. My brother panicked and wanted to sell everything. I was in intensive care and spoke to him by phone. I was against selling everything but the family agreed to sell 75% of the large catalog of copyrights to Warner Brothers for $9 million. I managed to save all of Elvis Presley Music and Hank Williams Music. I later learned that Jean agreed to let Warner Brothers pay for the catalog over nine years. The Company never paid a dime of its own money because the royalties on the catalog covered the purchase. After that I went back to France. It took me many years to recover and I was unable to do much work.
In 1983, a horrible catastrophe befell my family. Two of our children died. In June, Dolfi died after three liver transplants; he was 23. Two months later, Ronny died in an accident. My family was profoundly affected by these tragedies.
Back in New York, we moved from 200 Central Park South to 812 Park Avenue. I was starting to feel much better and be more active in the art and music businesses. Unfortunately, my brother then had a heart attack and our business activity was restricted.